Making Moves

The Earliest of Recycling Repurposed Hundreds of Homes in
Barrington and Saved Precious Resources

story by Barbara L. Benson


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In the early morning hours of September 10, 2017, the small yellow house, previously known as 118 Wool Street, began a slow and stately journey to its new home on Oakdene Road in Barrington Hills. It was not the first move for this sturdy little residence. It was originally Charles Wool’s barn and stood behind his house on East Main Street. In the late 19th century, both his house and barn were moved south, the house becoming 128 Wool Street and the barn number 118, where it was converted to a house by G.H. Lageschulte.

The inspiration to follow this Barrington moving tradition belonged to Jeff Baustert, a documentary film maker who had recorded every stage of the restoration of Barrington’s White House. He and his wife, Chris, had learned of the need to move or demolish 118 Wool Street to create parking for Moretti’s Ristorante and Pizza, due to open by June of this year. With an interest in preserving historic houses, they envisioned the house on their property—becoming a charming guest house with a past. And so, they began the complicated logistics and planning of the latest move in the long history of recycled buildings in Barrington.

But recycling was not in the lexicon of Barrington’s founders in 1854, when they literally kept a roof over their heads as they came to the new town from nearby Deer Grove. The word “recycling” did not come into use until 1925 according to Merriam Webster’s Time Traveler. Nonetheless, the Village of Barrington had long before exemplified that description as it applies to moving buildings. In earlier days, trash was mostly burned or buried, not recycled, hence the trove of bottles, jars, pottery, old tins, and other ephemera unearthed from many a settler’s yard.

In 1905, it was moving day for the Hough Street School. The frame building was cut into four sections and moved. Two sections became homes on Dundee Avenue, and one later became the building that today houses Farmhouse On North, and before that, The Greenery, local restaurants. (Photo source, “Tales of Old Barrington”)

The Move That Created Barrington

In 1854, some pioneers, on the grounds of the commercial activity and saloons that might negatively influence their children, had rejected making the small depot permanent at the settlement of Deer Grove. The Illinois and Wisconsin, later the Chicago and Northwestern railway, was extending its lines onward into the heartland and rejection by the Deer Grove residents sent their engineers to find a willing seller at the Cook/Lake County Line road instead. A few settlers decided to follow opportunity to the prospective new town at the crossroads.

With the rails laid, the Deer Grove depot was hoisted onto a flat car and ridden along to the crossroads, to be set down where the farmer’s market is held today. There it would stay, now Barrington Station, until 1915, when a new brick depot was built across the tracks. The old one was moved again, and became a freight shed further up the line. In its turn, the 1915 depot would be recycled, when, in 1978, it was inched cross-town with festive crowds lining the streets, to become a historic addition to the Ice House restoration of owner Al Borah. There it has become a community fixture as Chessie’s Restaurant.

In 1854, with the railroad built and the station in place, it was time for more buildings to be transported. Necessity was the mother of invention. Frugality and the lack of a sawmill to mill lumber at the new village, motivated the Friend Brothers to have their Deer Grove store loaded onto a trailer, which was pulled by 32 yoke of oxen, and since it was early winter, five yoke were driven ahead to clear the snow. The store was set down east of the tracks as Barrington’s first general store. It was eventually torn down, but the lumber was recycled for a barn on East County Line Road.

The Creet Family also sensed opportunity in the new town, and using the railroad flatcar, their house with all its contents were transported from near Inverness to Barrington and resettled on the south side of East Station Street between Cook and Hough Streets. Eyewitnesses reported that the fire continued to burn in the stove during the move. A blacksmith and bicycle shop were added and the Creets occupied the entire block. In 1921, the house was moved again, this time to 201 West Station Street where it is still a residence, probably the oldest house in Barrington.

A School Becomes Four Homes

The second move of the Creet House came during a period of frequent building recycling. The 20th century had begun with an intricate breaking up and relocating operation for the white frame Hough Street School, of which the original section dated from 1855. In 1905, the old schoolhouse was split into four sections, three of which exist to this day. The 1855 section, the west wing, was moved to 121 West Station Street, and later demolished for municipal buildings. The other three sections are extant: the south wing, added in 1883 was moved to become 316 Dundee Avenue. The center wing, also an 1883 addition, became a residence at 310 Dundee Avenue. The north wing has a more colorful history. Transported to North Avenue, it was initially converted to a residence. Much later it became the well-known Greenery Restaurant. After years of uncertainty, it has again opened as a restaurant, the Farmhouse On North.

How fortunate that Barrington’s iconic historian Arnett C. Lines documented so thoroughly the first 100 years of Barrington, including six pages of spreadsheets about the early buildings; where they were, where they were moved to, and how they were repurposed. From these pages we learn that many barns were moved to become residences, similar to Charles Wool’s barn, as were commercial buildings such as the Shroeder Hardware Store and the Schaefer Meat Market at the northwest corner of Cook and Station Streets. They were relocated to respectively become 322 and 318 West Lake Street.

Arnett C. Lines devoted much of his life to cataloguing nearly all aspects of life in Barrington, including this sample of his many pages of tracking house moves.

Late in the 19th century, an industrial complex, The American Malleable Iron Company, was built adjacent to the railroad. A portion remains identifiable today at the location of The Pink Geranium. They made iron castings and their workers, many of them Hungarian, came from Chicago by train or lived in small cottages built in the swampland north of the present Foundry of Barrington. Hobein’s General Store, also a Post Office, and a platform at Hart Road served the workers. By 1903, the Company was failing due to faulty castings. The factory and the cottages were abandoned. Later residents used the services of August “Foxy” Scherf to move cottages onto village lots. 316 West Lake Street, 216 Dundee Avenue, 200 Dundee Avenue, and 120 West Station Street were all Highlands cottages, moved in when those streets were first opened. The first three are still there; the latter was also demolished for an earlier public safety building. When Scherf gained a monopoly over moving buildings in Barrington isn’t recorded by Lines, but according to his lists, business must have picked up in the 1920s and ‘30s, once Scherf acquired a tractor and mechanized jacking equipment.

Introducing the Tudor Style in the 1920s

Business expansion west of Hough Street began in the mid-1920s. Several residences were moved and replaced by the Tudor-style buildings then in vogue in both residential and commercial construction, of which the Catlow Theater is a historic example. Many houses on the streets west of Dundee Avenue were moved from other areas of town. Newly surveyed lots and moved houses made for economical home ownership, especially during the depression years.

After World War II, as prosperity returned, the West Main Street expansion continued when more houses were moved to open up the area for the Jewel Tea store and its parking lot. 126, 131, 139, and 144 all found new addresses. By this time, moving required more permits, with overhead utilities and water and sewer lines needing to be disconnected. State and county transportation departments, the police and fire departments, all had to give permission, and railways needed to be notified and moves adjusted to their timetables. The administration of such details added to the cost of these post-war relocations. Nonetheless, history, and still inherent thriftiness, did not deter this original Barrington recycling tradition, and when it came to moving the Wool Street house there were some notable moves in the memory of many residents.

That 1978 relocation of the Barrington railroad depot was a white-knuckle event, especially turning the corner at Hough and Main with two inches to spare. The buildings had not yet been demolished for the straightening of Hough Street and the depot’s progress was accompanied by cheers and applause as each corner was successfully negotiated. It finally arrived at the west end of the Ice House, adding another historic element to the transformation of the building.

In 1986, residents flocked to the Cook and Station Street area to see 201 S. Grove Avenue moved to 210 S. Cook Street. Precipitated by the site selection for the First National Bank of Barrington’s new building on the hillside overlooking the town, it was a fortuitous move. It filled in the streetscape between two existing 19th century houses.

Jeff Baustert, owner of the little yellow house, visits with 94 -year-old Mel Schroeder, who lived in the house after he was born until he married (1923–1946).

Another 13 years went by before another significant moving operation brought out a crowd, when, in July, 1999 the brick Wichman Blacksmith Shop, held together with steel bands, made the journey from West Station Street to the Barrington Historical Society’s campus at 212-218 West Main Street. A new foundation was waiting for this historic structure built in 1929, hailed then as one of the most modern blacksmith shops in the country. Now it would become a museum center, where the history embodied in the building could be recalled for a new generation, to understand that blacksmithing was a trade as essential to the early residents of Barrington as a car mechanic is today.

A Modern Day Move Bridges 94 Years

And then, in 2017, it fell to Jeff Baustert to follow through with the onerous preparations for history to repeat itself. He was buoyed with a personal link to the past, when 94-year-old Mel Schroeder, whose daughter Linda Uziel had by chance read about the impending move, brought her father back to recall his youth at 118 Wool Street. He had been carried home from the hospital in 1923 when he was 10 days old and had lived there with his parents until his marriage in 1946. Memories crowded in, of a time when Barrington was a friendly market town, when everyone knew their neighbors, most belonged to one of the many churches, and parking meters had not yet replaced the hitching posts.

From a barn for Charles Wool’s horse and wagon, to a family home, and more recently a beauty salon, the walls of the little house have witnessed the story of Barrington from 19th century railroad market town, to 21st century suburban destination, which embodies its motto: “A Great Place to Live, Work and Play”. Time has been good to the barn that became a house, and it begins a new chapter in its history, two miles from where its first beams were raised aloft in a Barrington that was barely 20 years old.

From their resting place in Evergreen Cemetery, Emma and Charles Wool might be surprised that their pioneer labors are so kindly remembered. Charles died in 1910 at the age of 78, and Emma in 1929, at 81 years old. They were truly among those who, to quote Arnett C. Lines, “builded better than they knew”.

The Raising of Chicago

Buildings and Homes were moved by necessity in Chicago to solve serious urban problems in the fast-growing metropolis

While small communities along the spreading mid-19th century rail lines were taking shape, using every enterprise of carpentry and engineering capabilities of the time, including moving already constructed buildings, a phenomenon was occurring in Chicago that has rarely been recalled until recent television programs of Geoffrey Baer.

Entire buildings and blocks were being raised out of the mud while business continued within their walls. Whether it was offices, banks, retail establishments, or hotels, what had become prime real estate needed a lift. The cause of these drastic measures is analogous to modern times before restrictions were placed on building in wetlands. In the 19th century, the elevation of the Chicago shoreline was little higher than Lake Michigan itself, and drainage was poor or non-existent for the sewage and wastewater that emanated from the growing city. Epidemics of typhoid fever and dysentery were an annual occurrence, culminating in the 1854 outbreak of cholera that killed six percent of the city’s population.

The city’s aldermen and engineers went through two years of heated discussion and false starts, until, in 1856, engineer Ellis S. Chesbrough presented an acceptable plan for a city-wide sewerage system. Workers laid drains, covered and refinished roads and sidewalks with several feet of soil, and raised most buildings to the new grade with hydraulic jacks. The first of these raisings was in January 1858, when a four-story, 70-foot long brick, 750-ton brick building at the northeast corner of Randolph and Dearborn Streets was raised on two hundred jack-screws to be 6 feet 2 inches higher than it was before.

The success of this feat led to the raising of 50 similar buildings in the city that year. Boston engineer James Brown went on to partner with Chicago engineer James Hollingsworth and they were the first, and reportedly the busiest “raising” partnership in the city. By year’s end they had raised structures more than 100 feet in length and the next spring they doubled that.

By 1860, the confidence and expertise for this method of pulling the city out of its quagmire grew, and six engineers, most notably among them George Pullman in his first work in Chicago, were teaming up to move ever larger buildings. Their most impressive operation was the lifting of half a city block complete and in one go. This was on Lake Street between Clark and LaSalle Streets, a solid masonry 320 feet row of shops, offices, and printers in brick and stone buildings, some four and five stories high, with a footprint of almost one acre. The raising was a total estimated weight of thirty-five thousand tons including hanging sidewalks.

It took 600 men using six thousand jackscrews five days to elevate the entire assembly four feet, eight inches in the air, all the while as people went about their business in and out of the buildings as if nothing unusual was happening. Thousands watched the spectacle, and on the final day they were permitted to walk at the old ground level among the jacks.

For the next few years, the raising of ever larger buildings, including the Tremont House hotel and the Robbins Building, an iron structure with a total weight of twenty-seven thousand tons, continued to draw crowds of onlookers.

In modern times, a similar spectator sport could be found in the observation decks often provided in major cities by construction companies. These allowed the public a safe viewing place as the skyscrapers rose out of the depths of rock and mud and sand that are often their natural foundations. Bring your lunch-time sandwich and coffee, and watch the buildings escape the earth to obscure the sky on yet another block in town. But nothing compared in its time, to the raising of Chicago from the squalor of the mud-flats in the mid-19th century.